Do Spanish-English Bilingual Children Outperform Monolingual English-Speaking Children on Executive Function Tasks in Early Childhood? A Propensity Score Analysis

J. Marc Goodrich, Natalie A. Koziol, Hyeon Jin Yoon, Sergio Leiva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite much research examining whether bilingual individuals demonstrate superior executive function (EF) skills compared to monolinguals, the purported bilingual advantage remains controversial. One potential reason for discrepant findings across studies examining the bilingual advantage is the difficulty in matching monolingual and bilingual groups on important confounding variables that are related to EF. To address this limitation of prior research, we used a propensity score matching approach to evaluate the presence of the bilingual advantage in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–2011. Consistent with recent theories of EF development; we hypothesized that before matching, we would observe bilingual advantages on report-but not performance-based measures of EF. However, we expected that after matching bilingual and monolingual children on a comprehensive set of covariates there would be no group differences in EF. We matched bilingual Spanish-English and monolingual English kindergarteners on a comprehensive set of child and school-level covariates and conducted a sensitivity analysis to evaluate whether results were sensitive to unobserved confounds. After matching groups (n = 252 matched pairs of monolingual and bilingual children), bilinguals had greater teacher-rated inhibitory control and attentional focus than did monolinguals; however, only the effect for inhibitory control was robust to unobserved confounds. In contrast, no effects of bilingualism were observed for performance-based measures of working memory or cognitive flexibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-892
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Volume114
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 14 2021

Keywords

  • Bilingual advantage
  • Early childhood
  • Executive function
  • Propensity score matching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Do Spanish-English Bilingual Children Outperform Monolingual English-Speaking Children on Executive Function Tasks in Early Childhood? A Propensity Score Analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this